Monday, April 28, 2014

Book Review: Sioux: History and Culture

Sioux: History and Culture: Native American Library, Helen Dwyer and D.L Birchfield, Gareth Stevens Publishing, New York, 2005.
This is an adequate brief story of the Sioux people.  It talks of how the Sioux were pushed west by the Ojibwe and white influences.  The Black Hills are sacred to them, and from where they believe they emerged.  This gives a history of the wars between the different Sioux groups, Lakota, Dakota and Nakota.  The Lakota had a long drawn out war from 1854 to 1862.  At the conclusion a mass hanging of thirty-eight Sioux was the largest mass execution in the U.S.
Several wars followed.  To protect a gold trail to Bozeman, Montana, forts were constructed in the Sioux sacred territory.  They fought the forts, and eventually prevailed.  As part of this war were two Sioux victories.  The Battle of Rosebud and the Battle of the Little Bighorn, where Lieutenant Colonel Custer was killed with his men. 
However another tactic proved effective and forced the Sioux to the reservations.  That was to destroy their way of life.  By mass killings of the buffalo, the Sioux were no longer able to support themselves in their traditional way.  The final battle took place in 1890.  At this battle Sitting Bull was killed.  The Indians though they would be protected by their ghost shirts which the wore for the Ghost Dance.  They were wrong.  150 Native Americans were killed.  From there the Native Americans entered a period of reservation life and acculturation.  The practice of sending the children to Indian Boarding Schools had as its goal the assimilation of native Americans into white culture.  This was not an easy time, and lead to many being alienated from their culture and not really fitting into another. 
Today the struggle continues.  The courts have decided that the Black Hills were taken illegally.  The Sioux have been awarded compensation.  However they do not want the money but the Black Hills.  They are waiting for congress to give the hills back to them.
Traditionally, people have become leaders among the Sioux by having characteristics that are valued by the community.  These include wisdom, courage, generosity, compassion for the needs of others, and an ability to gain spiritual guidance from dreams and visions.

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